Opening the Gateway

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Four of Abu Dhabi's major property developers have teamed up to create a new company that will unlock the gateway to the international real estate sector.

Al Maabar, meaning "The Gateway", is a joint venture between Al Qudra Real Estate, Sorouh Real Estate, Aldar Properties and Reem Investments, the four main operators in the emirate's property market.

News of the new venture first surfaced in early March, and was given substance during the recent Abu Dhabi Real Estate and Investment Show, which concluded on March 24.

According to Ahmed Ali Al Sayegh, the newly appointed chairman of Al Maabar and the chairman of Aldar Real Estate, the company will cast its net wide in search of suitable projects.

"Our aim is to jointly develop property overseas and to diversify our revenue sources," he told a news agency on March 21. "We are currently studying several projects in the Gulf and Middle East markets. We are also looking at North Africa."

Though the initial level of capitalisation of the company has yet to be finalised, Al Maabar is expected to be sufficiently cashed up to allow it to compete in the international property development market. The company's strategic plan, along with its finances, are set to be unveiled shortly.

Though yet to be formally launched, work was already underway to identify potential development schemes, he said.

"The partners have finished the establishment procedures already and we are now studying some expected property projects that we may invest in in promising markets," Al Sayegh said.

Strength through unity appears to be one of the underlying philosophies of Al Maabar's partners, one stressed by Mounir Haidar, the chief executive officer of Sorouh Real Estate, on March 21.

"This new corporation will create a formidable real estate player able to compete in the international arena, which is much better than any of the Abu Dhabi major developers tapping into these markets alone," he said.

On March 27, Aldar Properties announced it was investing more than $500m to create a new retail, residential, hotel and leisure complex in the centre of the capital, just the latest of its developments. Only days before, Reem Investments launched its latest project, a $8bn development on Reem Island, while Al Qudra Real Estate, a subsidiary of Al Qudra Holding, is responsible for such developments as Danat and Desert Towers and Sorouh Real Estate for Sky Tower, Tala Tower, Golf Gardens and Shams.

Though none of the joint venturers intends stepping back from the domestic market in Abu Dhabi, which shows no signs of flagging and which is expected to contribute $10.9bn to the Emirate's gross domestic product this year alone, all four are looking to Al Maabar as a vehicle for expansion.

While it is nothing new for the Gulf's leading property developers to spread their wings and target major investment projects overseas, the forming of such a joint venture with the specific objective of going global is a major step forward.

Al Maabar is committed to taking a reasoned approach to its investments, hoping to avoid some of the pitfalls that have dogged other Gulf property investors when branching out overseas.

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